I snagged a couple of poolside chairs and managed to get in a little snooze after our early morning walk. But by 10:30, the sun was blazing in the sky and the day began heating up. Rather than risk a sunburn on our first day out, we gave up the lounges to a young couple, and moved to a table in the shaded area on the port side of the ship. I began watching the sea as we churned through the water.
Off on the distant horizon I could see the uneven outline of an island: Cuba, I realized. Purplish hazy hills jutted out of the deep sapphire blue sea; we were too far away to see any details. I stood at the ship's rail, watching as we moved past this mysterious country.
To my right, I noticed an older gentleman. He was dressed in a dark t-shirt, plaid shorts, white socks and tennis shoes. I guessed him to be in his late 70's or early 80's. He was gazing out at the island, apparently lost in deep thought.
After several moments, he looked around and saw that I was also looking out to sea. He did not smile, but nodding his head toward the land, he spoke. "Cuba. My homeland."
He turned back to face the island. "When I left there, I was a very young man, a strong man. Now....I am old." He paused for a long while, then added, "I miss my homeland." With that, he gave me a sad smile, then turned and walked away. I felt almost voyeuristic, realizing that I'd been given a very private glimpse into the gentleman's life.
For a moment, all of the laughter, music, noise, and gaiety of the cruise ship faded to silence as I watched that one lonely soul, longing for home.
In a sense, we who follow Jesus share a similar emotion with that gentleman. We exist in the here and now, realizing that we don't always "fit" --but for now we have to stay. There are things we must do, people we must meet, all parts of our purpose. We think of friends and loved ones who linger on in our memories, and look forward to that glad Heavenly reunion day.
We're here, in the world, with all of the noise and distractions -- yet deep inside, we also are longing for Home.